Eric Ellestad Goes From After Thought To Star

Eric Ellestad, who was named the Big Ten's Co-Special Teams Player of the Week in his debut, is exciting about playing in the new TCF Stadium. It had appeared that Ellestad wouldn't get a chance to kick for the Gophers after not being invited to participate in two-a-days two years ago. However, he used the shunning as a motivation and GoldenSports.Net talked to Ellestad to learn the latest.

Eric Ellestad playing in his first collegiate game, kicked a game-tying 26-yard field goal with less than one minute remaining in regulation to force overtime. In overtime, Ellestad hit the game-winning 35-yarder. He added another 26-yarder in the third quarter. Ellestad made three of four field goal attempts with his miss being tipped at the line of scrimmage after a breakdown in protection. Ellestad also handled kickoffs, averaging 62.8 yards per kick.

Ellestad, a graduate of Robbinsdale (MN) Armstrong, grew up at a Minnesota Gopher fan. He is excited about playing against Air Force in the TCF Stadium debut.

"It will probably be one of the highlights of being a Gopher here. Open up in a brand new stadium and coming off a big victory over Syracuse. I won't forget Saturday at 6 o'clock at all."

Ellestad kicked the game-winner against the Orangemen, despite their efforts to ice him by calling a timeout.

"I was nervous, but I just pretend that nobody was there and that it was just another normal kick. I kind of cancelled everything and focused on what we had to do right there quick and it went through. I was just thinking, I don't know why they did it (call the timeout). It makes me a little more nervous, but it gives me more time to prepare and get ready for the kick.

Ellestad said it was nice to back on the field since he had not kicked a meaningful field goal since 2005 as a member of the Falcons.

"It felt great. I was just glad to be out there and get my chance again and show everybody what I can do."

Ellestad said that being the hero of the game was even more gratifying after some struggles early in his career when some doubted his abilities at the Division I level. He didn't participate in the team's summer camp at St. John's.

"They did not invited me to two-a-days one year because I was not comfortable kicking yet. That just gave me an opportunity to just practice more and get stronger. I've just been practicing super-hard for the past two years and I got my chance and it all went my way, so I'm really excited."

Ellestad said that he could not ask for a better college debut, but admits it will be tough to top his effort against Syracuse in which he was named the Big Ten's Co-Special Teams Player of the Week.

"That is a huge honor. Hopefully, I can stay up there and keep on doing good."

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